Replenishing Schaumburg’s Water

By Mary Beth Radeck
(April 2011)

Storm water has always been a challenge to the land and the problem will continue to escalate as climate change advances along with the frequency and severity of storms. What were once nature’s wastewater and flood control departments–prairies, open bodies of water and wetlands–are now largely paved over or turf-ed. In order to reverse the trend, Schaumburg can employ new techniques to augment, and in some cases, replace artificial systems with more natural processes through green infrastructure. According to a number of studies provided by the EPA, low-impact development practices can be used to retrofit existing infrastructure, and water can once again be captured and stored. Velocity of runoff can be slowed and rain may once again infiltrate the ground as nature intended, cleansing and replenishing nature’s Deep Tunnel: the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer. 

Today’s Dream: Storm Water Harvest

Retaining rain in order to undo much of the damage development has done will require a reversal of traditional thinking. Instead of sending water away, Schaumburg must treat it as the precious resource that it is: retain it, replenish it and restore it. Corporations and residential impervious surfaces like parking lots and lawns must allow rain water to soak back into the earth near to where it falls. Rooftops and road ways must channel water to places where it can be cleansed of pollutants and return to its natural underground storage reservoir. Since space is now limited in the Village, small pockets of replenishment should be created and beautified. Impervious, unnatural lawn and turf can be converted to replenishment zones, saving the expense of maintenance and protecting against drought. Rain gardens with native forbs could become “the new black” for residents.

Rain garden (EPA)

Every home can use rain barrels, sold by the village to support a professionally-designed rain garden. Each owner of a parking lot can replant thirsty parkway trees within a parking island swale which funnels water from pavement into, not away from, these mini-islands. Competitions for the most beautiful rain garden, green roof and swale design could be sponsored by the city in collaboration with green retailers. It is through efforts like these that Schaumburg can demonstrate its leadership role for a more sustainable American Dream.

The following are proven methods and practical solutions for reducing runoff, promoting water infiltration and improving air quality, too, with proven success as described by the EPA. 

Corporate and Commercial

Green roof (EPA)

 Vegetated Roof Cover on corporate and retail buildings. Miles and miles of existing Schaumburg rooftops can be greened to reduce improve air quality, reduce runoff and save energy, too, saving air conditioning costs.

Bioretention in parking lots (EPA)

Bioretention in parking lots. Landscape islands with trees starving for water which currently dot the paved landscape can be converted to bioswales. Instead of repelling storm runoff, they can retain and filter it before it restores groundwater supply.

Permeable paving in parking lots  can also be used to reduce the contaminated runoff from parking lots and improve reinfiltration of storm water into the ground water supply. Although more expensive to install, permeable paving provides a significant cost savings by eliminating additional infrastructure to reduce runoff long term.

Corporate rain garden (EPA)

 Corporate rain gardens that buffer and retain roof runoff can be an attractive and efficient alternative to retention ponds and also support biodiversity.

Local and County Governments

Follow Schaumburg’s lead: develop green bylaws, remove zoning restrictions and retrofit infrastructure to use water infiltration and on-site storm water management techniques recommended by the EPA.

Naturalized swale (EPA)

Naturalized swale areas can be built in buffer spaces to manage storm water and create natural areas for wildlife.

Utilize Rain garden parkways to retain street runoff, nurture roadside trees and hearty plants.

Tips for Homeowners

Homeowners should be encouraged to:

  • Support the efforts of the Village to add green roofs and naturalize areas
  • Avoid using fertilizer and lawn chemicals
  • Cultivate native plants which require less care
  • Keep waste out of storm drains including pet waste, debris, oil and paints
  • Stop putting hazardous chemicals into storm drains; clean up and dispose of them properly
  • Use detergents low in phosphorous to help keep excess nutrients out of streams
  • Retain water from your roof by installing a rain barrel
  • Retain water from your turf lawn by installing a rain garden

Home rain barrel (EPA)

Today and beyond, Schaumburg has the opportunity to once again lead our culture and create a new, sustainable American Dream. In this fashion, suburban growth and development can stand as an example to bigger cities, as opposed to playing catch-up on implementing sustainable water practices.

Home rain garden (EPA)

Schaumburg can have roadside wildflowers, clean lakes and streams, singing frogs, and hear the rush of winds through prairie grass in this century. One would no longer need to jump in the car to experience nature since it would reside within the Schaumburg office and shopping corridor. Schaumburg’s entire 19-square-mile area can be dotted with open water, forest and wetlands once again. With some minor adjustments to how the community manages its rainfall, lawns and roofs, Schaumburg and its citizens can forge a new, sustainable American Dream, by reinventing itself and leading the nation to replenish and protect clean water–even in the face of climate change–on behalf of the families of the next millennium.

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